Gabriel pays tribute to Chapecoense after plane crash
By Michael Kelleher
Last Updated: 02/12/16 8:03am
Gabriel Paulista has paid a tearful tribute to the victims of the Colombia plane crash, which included members of Chapecoense.
Seventy-one people, including Chapecoense footballers, staff and journalists, were killed when a plane crashed in the hills outside the Colombian city of Medellin.
Arsenal joined Southampton, Manchester United and West Ham in honouring the victims on Wednesday, while Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid also paid tribute at their games in Europe.
There was a minute's silence at the Emirates Stadium prior to Arsenal's EFL Cup quarter-final against Southampton as Lucas Perez, Aaron Ramsey and Gabriel held up a banner reading 'Força Chape', a phrase that has been used hundreds of thousands of times across social media since the disaster.
In an emotional interview with Arsenal Player, a visibly upset Gabriel detailed his close relationships with members of the coaching staff and two of the players.
The Brazil defender told the club's official website: "It is a bit hard to talk about what happened. I wish the families can have strength and I hope God can comfort their hearts.
"I had many friends over there. I played for Vitoria for five years and I worked with the coach and the backroom staff, and two other players as well. We were very close friends.
"This is really hard to take. It is something you never imagine will happen to a close friend. The minimum I can do is send my condolences to all their families.
"It is not easy to lose a member of the family. I know from experience, I have lost a brother myself and I know how painful it is.
"I ask for strength for this team that enchanted Brazilian football, a group that five years ago were in the fourth division and surprised everyone. We only have good memories to keep in our heads from the team and the friends I made through football."
Gabriel also spoke of his regret at failing to act upon an urge to contact one of the victims on his last birthday, something he will now tragically never be able to do.
He continued: "We have a message group from Brazil and I texted them to say "don't leave for tomorrow what you can do today".
"I say that because on my last birthday I felt this urge to talk to Cain Junior and for some reason I left it for another day and then this tragedy happens.
"So if you think you want to do something just get out there and do it because we don't know what tomorrow brings."
The Premier League have announced all players will this weekend wear black armbands as a mark of respect to those who died in the plane crash earlier this week.
There will also be a minute's silence ahead of each Premier League fixture on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.